There are many detectives in fiction, but how many of them are also dead? James Aquilone, the same man behind Shakespeare Unleashed and Kolchak: The Night Stalker 50th Anniversary Graphic Novel, has launched a Kickstarter for Dead Detectives Society, a pulpy new anthology about undead gumshoes.
(Interview conducted by Danica Davidson)
CEMETERY DANCE: You’ve recently done anthologies for KOLCHAK and Shakespeare. Why dead detectives this time?
JAMES AQUILONE: Dead Detectives Society goes back to my roots. My first Kickstarter, in 2016, was for my first novel, Dead Jack and the Pandemonium Device. Dead Jack is a zombie detective and has now featured in three novels and several short stories. The zombie detective subgenre is pretty small — but there’s Kevin J. Anderson’s Dan Shamble and Tim Waggoner’s Matt Richter. Years after my Dead Jack Kickstarter, I became acquainted with Kevin and Tim and I thought it would be cool to do a book with all of our zombie detectives. Then the idea expanded to include more weird investigators. I had two goals with this anthology: 1) promote weird detectives, and 2) expand the subgenre by having writers create new characters.
You already have a number of stories lined up for the anthology. Which authors are you working with and what is it about their work that speaks to you?
Dead Detectives Society will have a lucky 13 stories. Half of the anthology features established characters like Kevin J. Anderson’s Dan Shamble, Tim Waggoner’s Matt Richter, Nancy A. Collins’ Sonja Blue, and Steve Nile’s Cal McDonald. And then we’ve added new characters like John Jennings’ Saul When: Halloween Detective and Rena Mason’s Jin G. Fox. David Avallone put a new twist on an old character with a reanimated version of pulp detective Nick Carter. Plus, we have Lisa Morton, Kasey and Joe R. Lansdale, Nancy Holder and Alan Phillipson, Jeff Strand, and Jonathan Maberry
I’ve worked with all the writers before and I’m a big fan of them all and their characters.
The anthology is going to be in the tradition of pulps. What do you think it is about pulps that keep them so popular?
It’s hard to define the pulps. Some people will say it was low-quality, sensational literature. There was certainly a lot of that. But the pulps also included Weird Tales, Analog Science Fiction and Fact, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Amazing Stories and Black Mask. Modern horror, science fiction, fantasy and detective fiction all began in the pulps, and they of course still inspire the stories of today. Star Wars to Indiana Jones to the Marvel Cinematic Universe owe a lot to the pulps. For me the pulps were about fun action-packed stories whose prime goal was to entertain.
Are you accepting more story submissions for this book?
I’m not taking submissions for this book, but the plan is to continue Dead Detectives Society as an annual anthology series, and I’m open now to pitches for new dead/weird detectives for future issues.
Anything else going on with Monstrous Books you can share with us?
Our first project, Shakespeare Unleashed, will be published on July 28, as will the companion comic book. We’ll be opening to novella submissions soon, and there are a couple of upcoming comic book projects that I can’t talk about just yet.